It was last June that Roger Morris’s brilliant, three-part profile — or, more accurately, indictment — of Robert Gates’ career appeared on the always-excellent tomdispatch.com website, concluding that the situation in which the defense secretary found himself some eight months after Donald Rumsfeld’s departure:
“… is not a predicament that can be escaped simply by staving off some further bonfire — like a mad attack on Iranian nuclear facilities; nor will Gates, even if successful, be capable of taking more than the initial steps in a rescue in the 18 months that are likely (though hardly destined) to be the extent of his Pentagon rule. But in none of it — neither the apparently encouraging contrast to Rumsfeld, nor the simple avoidance of disaster in Iran — does his record, his life story, give us grounds for more than the frailest of hopes. Yet, it is a mark of our time, an era he helped make, that, for the moment, Bob Gates, of all people, may be the last and best hope we have.”
Morris, I think, was very much on target, and, in my view, Gates has actually exceeded expectations. So, while Bill Kristol, in the latest edition of the Weekly Standard, has predictably nominated Gen. David Petraeus as his “Man of the Year” for 2007 — a harbinger of a neo-con campaign for a 2012 presidential run? — I was most impressed by his boss’ quiet but effective performance in moving U.S. foreign policy towards a more realist and realistic course, one that recognizes, as Gates himself told Jim Hoagland earlier this month, that the United States inhabits a “multipolar world.” My argument can be found here.